A while ago, I wrote about how over this summer, my layoff/sabbatical adventure brought me a lot of unexpected parenting joys. Getting to hang out more with my son James was at the very top of that list–but wow! He’s three! And, I’ve decided three is probably a LOT to take for anyone who isn’t three.
For James, this is also that magical time when testing his parents is not just a fun idea–to him, it’s a bloodsport. There are the bugs he loves to pluck from their sleepy spots on the earth, squash between his fingers and chase me with (because I scream like a girl). There are the puddles of disgusting three-day-old standing water he loves to splash in (because I scream like a girl). Come to think of it, he just really likes to do things that make me scream like a girl.
So, when the occasion calls for it, we’ve reluctantly begun to dive into the subject of disciplining James, which has gone over far worse than a lead balloon. It’s not rocket science that most experts recommend rewarding good behavior and disciplining bad behavior. But, it seems like that’s about where everyone stops seeing eye-to-eye on what happens next.
Not wanting to dive into swats on the bottom, we opted for the other two classics: yelling, yelling and more YELLING alongside threatening a time out. And, like I said: lead balloon. The lack of James taking it seriously seemed most evident to me on the day he actually ASKED for a time out. To make matters even more adorably opaque, James and his daddy have written a song together all about time outs. It’s an adorable duet to behold, but really? No, REALLY?
So, rather than remaining frustrated and yelling, or signing up to become the next Family Von Trapp featuring our world famous “Time Out Song,” I decided to ask my social media hive for their wisdom and experience regarding time outs. Several awesome moms (and one awesome dad!) weighed in with some great advice.
One mom said that after two warnings, her sons are given time outs that last the same number of minutes as their ages. So, in James’ case, he’d be sitting and thinking about his behavior for three WHOLE minutes. She also said that explaining why they’re in a time out is key, and, among other things, it always ends with “I’m sorry” and a hug.
Another friend, a single mom, said that her preference for more gentle, or progressive, parenting led her to do “time ins” with her nearly three-year-old daughter. While time outs tended not to work for them, she found that removing her daughter from the situation, holding her close and talking to her were more helpful.
The awesome dad said his children, ages two and three, are given the chance to correct their undesired behavior, but if they don’t change the behavior, they then must go into a time out. When time outs haven’t worked, he and his wife take away things they love (like shows or stories before bed). He said that for the most part, his kids tend to get the message. Even so, he did admit that time outs are difficult to enforce in the middle of the grocery store.
My final amazing mom friend (shoutout to Kim!) gave me the best goal imaginable with her sharing. It was so good that I am going to block quote it. Ready?
I say no to my kids. Yes, they whine. Yes, they ask why. Yes, it’s annoying. I feel that raising boys who do not have this sense of entitlement that is rapidly spreading throughout this country is more important than my longing for peacefulness. Besides, I’m the adult. I’m the one who’s supposed to keep my cool. I’m the one who is teaching them how to be kind, successful, happy adults. I’m the one who has to set a good example. I try to remind myself of this every day. And no, I’m not perfect. I have my “moments,” and when that happens I regroup and apologize. Yes, I just said I apologize to my children. I try to have more loves and laughs than reprimanding and anger.
More loves and laughs than reprimanding and anger sounds absolutely dreamy. Maybe after this next botched time out (and the subsequent sing along all about it), I’ll give that a try.